Resigned Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario has called on the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague, Netherlands to issue a ruling soon on the complaint filed by the Philippines against China over disputed areas in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
“Recent developments on the ground as a result of Chinese unilateral conduct of test flights, island-building activities and constructions, and challenges on freedom of navigation, overflight operations, and ongoing militarization, not to mention their still continuing prevention of Filipino fishermen from plying their trade at the Scarborough Shoal area, have seriously heightened tensions and further highlight the urgency of an early promulgation of the decision,” del Rosario told businessmen and members of the diplomatic corps in a recent gathering in Makati City.
The Philippines filed a memorial against China in 2013 after Chinese ships refused to withdraw from a shoal found within the Philippine’s exclusive economic zone. The government argued that China’s claims over the disputed waters should be declared invalid because these are contrary to the provisions of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
A ruling is set to be released later this year after the arbitral tribunal declared in October last year that it has jurisdiction to hear the territorial dispute. China has refused to take part in the court proceedings.
Del Rosario said the decision of the tribunal, once rendered, “will be legally binding” despite China’s proclamation that it will not abide by the ruling since they did not participate in the hearings while rejecting the PCA’s authority to hear the case.
“[The ruling] should be accorded due respect by everyone. We are enjoining other nations to help us to convince China to respect the rule of law,” the former Foreign secretary said.
Although del Rosario is confident of the strength of the Philippines’ claim, he said Manila should also abide by the decision on the merits of the case even if it is unfavorable to the Philippines.
China claims almost the entire West Philippine Sea, which is believed to be the site of large deposits of oil and natural gas. Apart from the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims over sections of the disputed waters, through which about $5 trillion in trade passes through every year.